Probably the best test I’ve ever ridden…

 Sophie with one of her Gold medals!

What a wonderful WEG we had… I have to say sitting at home on a dark autumnal evening, with a definite chill in the air, it’s hard to imagine that a very short time ago myself and Jorge were dancing our hearts out at our biggest competition as a partnership to date. We have done two Europeans together, but it’s a big jump to a World Equestrian Games. And a long way away from home, in rural Lincolnshire!

 Jorge has a lie in!

Jorge coped with flying really well, to the extent that he took off his own headcollar, so he could reach and steal his flying partner, Pimms’ (Erin Orford’s Dior), haynet! Cheeky boy! It was quite hot and humid when we arrived, but the unusually hot summer we had here went some way in preparing us! After a couple of rest days and gentle exercise, Jorge started to feel in fine form. We had nearly a week before competition for training and acclimatising - and also cheerleading the Dressage and Eventing riders, which was very inspiring. Top class horses, riding and training.

 The serious business of training!

We have worked so hard on our own training through the year, and stepping up our game, I knew what we needed to do in the arena, but sometimes that is easier said than done. Our competition started with the Individual test first. Jorge was a little tense going into the arena, which showed after our first halt where we proceeded in canter instead of trot. I think my support team were quietly having kittens on the sidelines when my running score came up as 46%. It left me with a fair amount of work to do, but we relaxed into the test, and although it wasn’t our best work, we did enough for Individual gold - World Champions! It’s been eight years since I’ve been able to say that, four years ago Reece came so close with double individual/freestyle silver… it’s been a lot of hard work since then!

 An emotional Sophie after a stunning test!

But there was no time to sit and relax as we had the Team test two days later. Jorge had a little stretch on the day in between and I knew what I needed to change from watching both my video from the test and also the warm up, then speaking to Ange and Nina. Well the Team test I knew I had to pull out something special for the team. We were without a Grade 1 rider for the first time, and that is normally a strong score for the team. I focused on our process and what was important, and Jorge was feeling amazing. A little bit of tension as we went in and around the arena but he quickly came back to me. We went on to produce what I can probably say is the best test I’ve ever ridden, and equal the best he has performed in competition. By no means perfect, but I just knew at the end we had done everything we possibly could have. This led to me being quite emotional, when you have worked so hard for so long for it to all happen at the right time, as you have prepared for, there’s no other feeling like it. The power and harmony, all controlled by thought, when a horse is that much in tune with you, it’s incredible. And what topped it off was that the judges agreed, with another career best score, WEG record and valuable contribution and start that our team needed! 77.233% woohoo!

We had a long wait to see if we had done enough as a team for that precious Team Gold. Unfortunately this time we hadn’t. It is gutting, we are all passionate about the legacy involved in being undefeated, but it had to happen one day. The Dutch deserved the gold and every member of the team scored above 72.9%, which is very good going! But for sure it will make us, as a nation, stronger and fight harder than ever before.

 Another Gold!

So the last day came, Freestyle to music. I have worked since April to make a new freestyle for Jorge. I loved his old one but he was into his fifth season using it and he’s grown up so much in that time. I had a vision of what I wanted it to look, sound and feel like and I didn’t stop until I got it. Top freestyle composer Tom Hunt was just amazing with his patience every time I wanted to tweak different parts. He composed it all from scratch and I just love it. I did scare myself slightly on the difficulty of the floorplan in the canter, as it comes up very quickly. But we pulled it off. There were a couple of trips in the left half pass and right pirouette which put my heart in my mouth, and he was a little on edge - I think on reflection he was quite fresh as I had given him the previous day off, but much better that way round! It’s all about getting to know them, they all react differently.

 Part of Sophie’s amazing team

We gained another WEG record of 80.755%, just short of my personal best. The only +80% of the competition. Jorge has been an absolute star throughout. I’m so proud of him, I know he is a big scoring horse, I just need to make sure I don’t let him down! But it has been such a team effort to achieve all of these wonderful things. I couldn’t do it without my whole home team, the World Class team, my owners, sponsors and supporters, and of course family and friends. It is a reflection of everyone’s hard work, commitment, loyalty and belief in us that has brought us to this point. So thank you, to each and every one of you. I mean it from the bottom of my heart!

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Dreams Come True at WEG!

 Sophie and Jorge in the arena at WEG

Sophie and Jorge are Individual World Champions at WEG 2018 - how fantastic and so well deserved. Here’s what Sophie had to say on Facebook.

“Literally dreams can come true. World Champion again - thank you so much Jorge for being my dancing partner and trusting me when you got nervous. Starting on 46% when we cantered out of our first halt wasn’t ideal, sorry for giving my team heart failure but we pulled it back. Thank you so so much to the whole team here and at home but especially Ange and Lewis. I couldn’t do it without you. Really looking forward to the team test and freestyle later this week, there is definitely more in there. Best of luck to the rest of the team this week. Looking forward to cheerleading tomorrow.”

Photo credit BEF/Jon Stroud Media.

Mentoring and Medals...

  Izzy on Touchdown with Sophie

Izzy on Touchdown with Sophie

As Sophie and Jorge (C Fatal Attraction) set off for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon, USA, you can find out more about Sophie's dual career as a competitor and a coach in this super article on the Paralympics GB website.

Not only is Sophie on the team but two of her students, Izzy Palmer with Touchdown and Georgia Wilson with Midnight, were selected as reserves - what an achievement for everyone.

Good luck in Tryon Sophie, have a fantastic competition, we're all behind you! 

(Find out all about Tryon 2018 here. The Para Dressage starts on 18th September with the Individual competitions.)

  Izzy, Sophie and Georgia

Izzy, Sophie and Georgia

A Massive Honour!

  Sophie and Jorge at Hartpury FEI CPEDI3*

Sophie and Jorge at Hartpury FEI CPEDI3*

It’s the news we’ve been waiting for – following a successful campaign including great results at the Hartpury FEI CPEDI3* earlier this month, Sophie and Jorge (C Fatal Attraction) have been selected for the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, USA in September. Not only that, but young horse Gladstone (William) is a reserve as are Sophie’s students Izzy Palmer with Touchdown and Georgia Wilson with Midnight. Well done ladies and we can’t wait to follow your adventures in America!

Here’s what Sophie had to say when the announcement was made…

“It’s a massive honour to say that myself and Jorge are selected for the World Equestrian Games in Tryon in September. I’m also super proud that William has been selected as reserve, alongside my clients Izzy Palmer and Georgia Wilson. It’s such a journey and so much hard work from everyone involved to get every combination to championship standard. Well done to team mates Erin Orford, Natasha Baker MBE and Sir Lee Pearson CBE. As always, a massive thank you to my team, who work tirelessly to enable me and my horses to do this; owners Charlotte Hogg, Jackie Walker and Valerie Woolford, and my fab sponsors - you all mean so much to me.”

  Izzy, Sophie and Georgia

Izzy, Sophie and Georgia

  The official announcement!

The official announcement!

Better News and New Arrivals!

  New arrival, Dime

Sophie brings us an exciting and reassuring update…

Following treatment at Newmarket, box rest and lots of care, there is better news on my top horse Reece (Valerius) who has increased his walking, to the point I can sit on him. Although after a very frisky moment in the field whilst trying to hack, we have resorted to smaller spaces for a while! 

Elsewhere it’s been an exciting start to the competition season. Deauville CPEDI*** went really well at the beginning of April. I only took Jorge as William did feel quite ready for his international debut. Jorge smashed out personal best performances on the first two days, which turned out to be career best for me too! He then returned home and got a personal best at Keysoe Premier League (able bodied) in the Inter 1, to win a big class.

In Deauville I also had two of my clients competing - Izzy Palmer on my horse Touchdown M, and Georgia Wilson on her own Chico. It was only Izzy’s second international abroad, and Georgia’s first, so it was quite a big deal for them. I remember when I first started going abroad to compete, it’s quite daunting. You don’t know many riders there and a lot of them are seasoned campaigners, many have done major championships too. I remember my first one and Ann Cathrin Lubbe and Philippa Johnson were competing, they had just come back from Athens with gold and silver medals. I was completely in awe of them, and still completely respect them as riders and competitors, feeling honoured I had such great role models to aspire to. 

As Izzy was riding Touchdown, I know him quite well, I’ve had him for 10 years, and despite his seven-year break in the middle due to injury, I can tune into him quite well. This is also the third season I’ve trained Georgia on Chico, so we have established a good warm up routine. I’m allowed to ride Chico for a maximum of 30 minutes each day as Georgia rides at grade 2, so we just had to stick to that plan. When you have a plan, I think it relaxes everyone involved including the horse. The time you start doing something different just because you are at a bigger competition and the pressure is on, things tend to go wrong! Same sh*t different arena, as Charlotte Dujardin famously said. 

Both girls did a great job. The horses are both prone to getting a little nervous, and sometimes it’s hard for riders to take control and be the confident one when they are in a pressured situation but they both proved the training they have put in and produced solid tests. It’s a really proud moment for me when the riders I train come out of the arena and everything has come together at the right time to pull off a great performance, but I also feel very proud when sometimes things don’t go according to plan and they are able to deal with it independently and make the best of the situation. That’s my goal in my coaching, not that they are reliant on me for every step, after all, they are on their own in that arena!

  Youth Pathway Coaching Programme

Youth Pathway Coaching Programme

Sometimes it’s hard to step back and let things happen which are good for learning, even if it’s hard to deal with at the time. That’s something I have found hugely beneficial from the work I’ve done on the Youth Pathway Coaching Programme I’m on. It’s hugely inspiring to be alongside some of the most motivated and down to earth top coaches, that are wanting to continue to better themselves. It’s very humbling. I come away from the course days drained but so inspired. Thank you to the BEF for running the course!

Back at home we have had some exciting new arrivals since returning from France. You can find out more about them on the horses' section of the website, but Charlotte Hogg has bought me JZ or “Classic Jillz Gueszenhof”. He’s not 4 until July this year, so only a baby, and has a lot of maturing to do. But he has such a huge character. I can’t thank Rebecca Hughes enough for helping me in my search for a new star, and Rebecca, Gareth Hughes and Julia Hornig From Classic Dressage for allowing me to buy JZ. 

Loki, a 5-year old From Oakleigh Farm Stud has also arrived. I had been teaching him and his owner for a few months when she offered me the ride. He also has a lot of character and we did our first competition together to get 7.7 in the 5-year old class to come a close 3rd after the final line up, originally sitting in 2nd. Now he’s based with me (after a bit of building work to allow for more stables), hopefully we can crack on with some training.

And finally, Dime arrived with us. A 10-year old bay mare who is training towards Grand Prix. It’s a great opportunity to get to know Dime, and so far she has been a sweetheart. Just lots more strength needed for the high level work but it’s work in progress. 

I’m looking forward to keeping you up to speed on everyone’s progress, in the meantime check out the new faces for yourself 😊.